MT's official files as Prime Minister, 1979-90

MT's official files as PM can be read on this site as they are released, in full and free to all - the confidential files originally stored at No.10, the core record of her premiership.

This is the first time in Britain - in fact as far as we can tell, in any country - that the declassified archive of a head of government has ever been published in full, paper or online.

The files have been copied at the British National Archives (TNA) at Kew in London and can be downloaded precisely as they appear in the reading room.

We are doing something more to help people make sense of this mass of information. The files are subject-based, logically enough, but that system makes it difficult to reconstruct the flow of paper across the Prime Minister’s desk at any point in time, depriving us of a sense of context and cross-winds, some of them overwhelming.

To combat this effect we are uploading a large selection of the most important documents from these files – thousands in total - to our powerful site database. You can search and sort by date, subject and other parameters, getting as close as anyone can now get to reconstructing the Prime Minister’s daily "Red Boxes", the rich diet of foreign and domestic policy papers submitted to her by the No.10 Private Office.

list & links to the PM's files

Secret no more

Below are links to the downloadable files in numerical order. The subject terms are those used in the original filing system. Files held back from release are listed in red.

An average file has around 200 pages.

You can read here an account of how filing worked at No.10, and the system for archiving MT's Prime Ministerial papers, both of which had their quirks.

Some of these downloads are very big, as large as 75MB, though most are in the range 1-10MB. To keep sizes down, images have been compressed, though legibility should never be a problem. High quality copies can also be supplied, where a need is established, on application to the site editor.

Where documents within a file have been selected for the site database, they can easily be viewed by clicking the link after the file name ("Selected PREM19/959"), as well as via conventional searches from the archive search screen. Over time most files will have had documents selected in this way, but it will take time and care is being taken not to allow the site database to become so large as to be unmanageable.

You can sort each column by clicking on its title in bold at the top, a powerful tool to find all the files on a particular subject over several years.

You can also search the list from the box on the right. The term "Public Spending", for example, will produce all the parts of the main file on that topic.

Chancellor of the Exchequer's Private Office files, 1979-89

1979-89: Chancellor's Private Office files [links to hundreds of digitised files from the Chancellorships of Sir Geoffrey Howe and Nigel Lawson]

engagement diaries

An alternative way through the material is to read MT's engagement diaries, jumping day to day.

The engagement diaries link directly to relevant documents in the site database, so this is a good way to recover the perspective from the Red Box.


File name Title Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pagessort descending
PREM19/1562 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance; Community Charge) (Part 28) Begins: 1985 Aug 1 Ends: 1985 Nov 29 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30 File classification: Secret Pages: 404
PREM19/3465 Nationalised Industries (Policy towards the nationalised industries: financial control) (Part 11) Begins: 1986 Jun 2 Ends: 1991 Feb 8 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 File classification: Secret Pages: 404
PREM19/1536 (UK/Indian relations: situation in Punjab; activities of Sikh extremists; proposed visit to UK by Rajiv Gandhi in June 1985) (Part 4) Begins: 1983 Mar 4 Ends: 1985 May 22 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30 Any docs withheld? 30 File classification: Secret Pages: 404
PREM19/2869 Soviet Union (Visit to the UK by President Gorbachev, 5-7 April 1989) (Part 4) Begins: 1989 Apr 2 Ends: 1989 May 3 Date of release: 2017 Dec 29 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 404
PREM19/2238 Housing (Housing policy) (Part 12) Begins: 1988 May 3 Ends: 1988 Jul 29 Date of release: 2016 Jul 21 File classification: Secret Pages: 404
PREM19/3784 Government Machinery (Machinery of government changes) (Part 8) Begins: 1990 Jul 2 Ends: 1992 Feb 28 Date of release: 2017 Dec 29 File classification: Secret Pages: 404
PREM19/2124 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure: Education Reform Bill; education in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland; financial delegation; grant maintained schools; national curriculum; future of Paisley Grammar School; charges forschool activities; opting out of Local Education Authority (LEA) control; religious education) (Part 17) Begins: 1988 Jan 7 Ends: 1988 Mar 30 Date of release: 2016 Jul 21 Any docs withheld? 1 File classification: Confidential Pages: 405
PREM19/2481 Scotland (Regional policy: industrial policy; draft White Paper on Scottish Enterprise) (Part 1) Begins: 1979 Nov 25 Ends: 1988 Nov 30 Date of release: 2016 Nov 7 File classification: Secret Pages: 405
PREM19/1422 Broadcasting (Television licence fees: finances of BBC; pay in the BBC; review of external services) (Part 1) Begins: 1979 Jul 6 Ends: 1985 Mar 28 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 407
PREM19/51 European policy (European Council, Strasbourg June 1979) Part 01 Begins: 1979 May 30 Ends: 1979 Jun 27 Date of release: 2009 Dec 30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 407
PREM19/2525 South Africa (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 15) Begins: 1987 Sep 2 Ends: 1988 May 26 Date of release: 2016 Nov 7 Any docs withheld? 14 File classification: Secret Pages: 408
PREM19/3846 Local Government (Water industry: structural change; privatisation of the water authorities; consultation paper 'Using Water Wisely') (Part 7) Begins: 1989 Sep 4 Ends: 1992 Nov 23 Date of release: 2017 Dec 29 Any docs withheld? 3 File classification: Confidential Pages: 408
PREM19/2070 Defence (Procurement of weapon systems: European Fighter Aircraft (EFA)) (Part 5) Begins: 1987 Jan 6 Ends: 1988 Mar 31 Date of release: 2016 Jul 21 File classification: Secret UK Eyes A Pages: 409
PREM19/2350 National Health (Seminars on health and social security matters: NHS Review) (Part 3) Begins: 1988 Mar 2 Ends: 1988 May 23 Date of release: 2016 Jul 21 File classification: Secret Pages: 410
PREM19/1654 USA (Economic situation in the United States) (Part 2) Begins: 1982 Oct 12 Ends: 1985 Feb 28 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30 File classification: Secret Pages: 411